I had my first taste of NYC when I was about 16 years old. Everything about it was wildly romantic and straight-up cool. The subways, the cabs, the crazies, the skyscrapers, the smell of garbage, the musicals! It was equal parts scary and sexy. I fell in love with the hustle. I was determined to move to New York for art school – I pretty much wanted my entire life to look like the opening credits to Felicity.
I bought a giant book that had details and information on art schools across the United States. It listed library sizes, majors, and tuition & fees. NYU cost something like $30,000 per year. OU (the University of Oklahoma) was in my backyard and cost about $3,000 per year. My parents generously offered to pay my way if I stayed close to home. So I did. I’m grateful that I graduated college without loans and I feel like I’m doing well for myself now. I don’t have any regrets but sometimes I can’t help but wonder … what if?
It was a little over 9 years ago that my parents made another generous offer to my brother who was forging his way in the world of sideshow performance. They knew he couldn’t make a living hammering nails in his head in Oklahoma – so they offered to pay his way in New York for a year. He moved a month before my sister gave birth to her first son. And since then he’s made a name for himself in the sideshow world. No, he doesn’t have health insurance. And yes, sometimes he’s just barely scraping by. But he gets to live what he loves. His job this week is mastering a new handcuff escape act before heading off to tour Australia for the month of September.
So last week Jeremy and I went and visited Donny at his home he shares with his girlfriend, Anna, in Brooklyn. We ate ethiopian food and sipped on honey wine. We walked across the Brooklyn bridge into Manhattan and ate cheap Chinese in Chinatown. Anna taught me Wu Tao in Strawberry Fields in Central Park. Wu Tao is a form of dance that functions like a moving meditation – it’s designed to open your meridians and is really quite amazing. In the middle of our dance a man with a bike and a few buckets, who had been watching us for a while, walked up and in an aggressive tone said “Dancers are the athletes of God. – Albert Einstein.” The credit to ol’ Einstein made the whole thing a lot less creepy. Only in New York. We ate bagels (oh boy, did we eat bagels), ice cream, pizza, and brunch. And we laughed a whole lot too. I admired the street art and bridges and got blisters on the bottoms of my feet for walking miles in flip flops – I know better, really.
So back to what if? As I was going through a young divorce a little over 5 years ago I thought “now is my time.” I figured I would finally have the opportunity to reinvent myself in Brooklyn. Maybe I’d even learn to breathe fire and become a part of my brother’s act when I wasn’t interning for a rockstar like Stefan Sagmeister for $2 an hour. But Jeremy happened and our roots in OKC started growing deeper. Today, for the most part, love exactly where I am. The slow pace of living here affords me lots of autonomy and space to not just survive – but thrive. I suppose I no longer crave the hustle of New York because I’ve made my own hustle – from right here. But even so… there’s something magical about The City. And every time we visit I can’t help but ask what if?
• If you want to read more about my brother and his journey check out my sister’s now defunct blog Kind of A Sideshow
• All photos were taken on my iPhone and processed using VSCO (and Photoshop). I post to Instagram (in the moment) here too!
• I’m doing a guest post on Emily Thompson’s blog about how living in Oklahoma affords me the opportunity to be a working creative. Check it out!